Thursday, 28 December 2023
When inventiveness meets a deep desire to help people: In the case of Swedish chiropractor Fredrik Lundqvist, this paved the way for a medical world first. Lundqvist developed the first suit to use electrostimulation to relieve spasticity and related pain. For example, it improves the mobility of children and adults with neurological dysfunctions – as the results of recent studies also indicate.[1,2]
A glimmer of hope for countless sufferers of central nervous system disorders all over the world. These include, for example, people with strokes, about 101 millions of whom live with the effects, more than 2.9 million people suffering from multiple sclerosis around the globe and people with infantile cerebral palsy (ICP), which affects two to three in 1,000 infants. The global health tech company Ottobock, headquartered in Duderstadt, Germany, markets the Exopulse Mollii Suit neuromodulation suit internationally.
In this interview, inventor Fredrik Lundqvist talks about his vision and the story behind this device that can change lives.
What are the benefits of the Exopulse Mollii Suit?
As a personal caregiver and chiropractor, I have mainly worked with people suffering from central nervous system disorders: adults and children who were unable to bend their legs, suffered severe spasticity and were unable to relax properly. That's why I was always looking for solutions for these people. This ultimately led me to the Exopulse Mollii Suit: There was and is nothing like it in the world that can help people like this suit. Gentle, risk-free and with such a great effect on bodily functions, everyday life and pain relief in case of spasticity. Over the years, I've seen the drugs with side effects that my patients need to take every day just to be a little more relaxed. Instead of this, we use electrostimulation, which is not really a new invention but a fusion of existing technologies. This is because we achieve better results.
What inspired you to invent the Exopulse Mollii Suit? Was there a concrete impulse?
I was the personal caregiver and assistant of an MS patient with whom I have become friends over the years: relieving Jurek's suffering, alleviating his spasticity and the pain associated with it – that was my main motivation for inventing the suit. During my apprenticeship as a chiropractor, I became acquainted with the so-called Mariefòix reflex, which indicates a central nervous disorder and makes it easier to bend a spastic leg. My first idea was to design vibrating shoes. In 2009, I thought, what happens when we trigger this reflex with a weak electrical impulse to stimulate the muscles? This would activate the knee flexors and deactivate the knee extensors. I tried it together with Jurek and glued adhesive electrodes in a certain pattern. And to my great surprise, it was much easier to bend one leg with the electrodes after 15 minutes – even this first test showed positive results. Later it became clear to me that we produce this product not only for those affected but also for their relatives and families. It makes life a little easier for everyone.
How long did the development phase take?
In the beginning, I worked with adhesive electrodes. But I quickly realised that it took too long and was far too complicated to train physiotherapists. They don't have enough time anyway. With a suit, the electrodes are positioned on the body in the correct way. At a certain frequency, they can activate the muscles that we have previously selected and reduce the spasticity. It's much more user-friendly.
In 2009 I was on the Swedish version of the inventor's show “Shark Tank” with the first prototype. That was the beginning, but it took several years to develop the suit into a functional product.
How do you describe the feeling you had in the first moment when you realized it was working?
The moment was overwhelming. I felt such a joy when I understood that I can actually help people who are so severely affected and alleviate their suffering. This feeling is incomparable – even today.
Do you remember a special moment during development?
There are many, for example, the first time I treated a patient with the help of adhesive electrodes. It took an hour and a half to apply the adhesive electrodes and turn everything on. My patient was so relaxed, he almost fell asleep after ten minutes. I often think back to that moment. During that initial observation, I understood that if it helps one person, it can help millions more.
Why did you decide to work together with Ottobock?
I knew from the start that I couldn't do it on my own. Our Exoneural Network start-up was acquired by Ottobock in 2021. That was two years and three months after my partners and I started developing medical technology. It was a dream come true for me. In my heart, I am a chiropractor and I care about people above all. My motivation is to be able to help. And that's best possible with Ottobock's expertise and sales channels.
What do you hope for in the future?
In the field of digital health, we are currently working on making the suit even more intelligent and more user-friendly, for example, with Bluetooth. And with telemedicine, we can easily train new qualified medical personnel to use the suit, no matter where they are. I hope we can spread the suit around the world to make life easier for those affected and their loved ones.
About Fredrik Lundqvist:
Fredrik Lundqvist is a chiropractor specialising in neurorehabilitation and inventor of the world's first neuromodulation suit. He grew up in Switzerland and therefore speaks German very well. The 50-year-old Swede worked as a personal assistant for a man with progressive multiple sclerosis for seven years. This work inspired him to develop the Exopulse Mollii Suit. As an expert in rehabilitation, Fredrik Lundqvist has trained physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals for many years. His goal is to help people around the world who suffer from spasticity due to neurological indications.
 Effects of a full-body electrostimulation garment application in a cohort of subjects with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke on upper motor neuron syndrome symptoms (degruyter.com)
 Effects of the TENS device, Exopulse Mollii Suit, on pain related to fibromyalgia: An open-label study - ScienceDirect
 WSO_Annual_Report_2022_-_online.pdf (world-stroke.org)
 Number of people with MS | Atlas of MS